Museum a touching experience

Interactive aspects of all exhibits now working at CMHR


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Was nearly seven weeks worth the wait?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/11/2014 (2938 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Was nearly seven weeks worth the wait?

Officials at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights hope so.

The $351-million national museum has pulled back the curtains on all 11 of its exhibits, but before anybody passes judgment one way or the other, spokeswoman Maureen Fitzhenry would like to request just one thing — come for a visit first.

John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press The remaining galleries at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights opened Tuesday, including the Canadian Journeys exhibit. Only four of the museum's 11 galleries were ready when it opened Sept. 27.

“Before we were open, there were different ideas out there about our content — some were accurate, and some weren’t. Some were misconceptions that evolved into bigger misconceptions. Now, the content is there for full exploration by all the visiting public. People can come and see it and judge it on its actual merits,” she said.

The hands-on experience of visitors at the fully open museum is a far cry from what they could — or mostly couldn’t — do when four galleries were opened for the first time on Sept 27. For one thing, the touchscreens in all of the galleries are fully operational and allow users to get a quick snapshot of whatever topic they’re researching or drill down further to get a full in-depth story.

The first newly opened gallery visitors will experience is Canadian Journeys, which showcases a wide range of domestic human rights experiences, including the plight of aboriginal women, the Winnipeg General Strike, the October Crisis, the right to vote, residential schools, the Chinese head tax and the Underground Railroad.

Each topic has its own dedicated space with unique artwork and screens that can play personalized stories of the different challenges faced by people who lived through them.

The Protecting Rights in Canada gallery covers issues such as children’s rights, gender rights and free speech. It also potentially puts visitors in awkward situations as it asks them to vote on various issues, such as whether it should be a crime to physically discipline a child, and then posts the results on an overhead screen a few seconds later.

More than a few sideways glances were exchanged as voters wondered who cast their ballot for what.

John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press The Turning Points for Humanity exhibit.

Perhaps the most disturbing of the galleries examines the Holocaust. While the Nazis’ persecution of Jews is well-known, they also murdered people with disabilities as well as gays and lesbians.

Both the Turning Points for Humanity and Breaking the Silence galleries are full of innovative technology that helps get stories across. In the former, for example, a screen is activated when a visitor stands on a certain part of the floor. A story is told when a visitor points to it on a screen.

In the latter, a study table of 19 human rights stories enables visitors to touch parts of a map or run their finger along a timeline.

The Actions Count is a feel-good gallery that recounts children and youth-led initiatives to combat issues such as bullying. The Rights Today gallery shares stories of human rights defenders such as Buffy Sainte-Marie (whose Academy Award is in a display case).

The highlight of the Inspiring Change gallery is the red graduation dress of Mareshia Rucker from Abbeville, Ga. She wore it at the Integrated Prom 2013 for graduating students of Wilcox County High School. Until last year, the school’s prom was a racially segregated event, but she and some friends organized one that was open to all.

John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press The Indigenous Perspectives gallery.

Finally, the travelling exhibition, which should be active for about a year, is focused on peace and Canadians’ historic role in promoting peace around the world through organization, negotiation or intervention.


Updated on Thursday, November 13, 2014 7:05 AM CST: Adds slideshow

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